Tech Tax Tanked, High Earners Yanked
Ag Lots Released & Sunday Hunting Expands

May 2008
by Nancy Hill

The 2008 General Assembly session ended on Monday, April 07, 2008. The total number of bills introduced was 2,641- 1,014 in the Senate and 1,627 in the House- as compared to 2,479 introduced in the 2007 session and 2,856 in the 2006 session. As a whole, Maryland’s horse industry was neither helped or hurt by any legislation.

Some of the issues that looked at the beginning of the 90-day session like they would be hot just fizzled out. Legislation to repeal the death penalty died; however, a billa passed that will establish a commission to study capital punishment. A compromise bill to allow speed cameras and a bill to ban handheld cell phones while driving both failed as well. In last month’s column, I reported that the governor and legislators would not increase taxes this year. Well, I was wrong. In exchange for repealing the sales tax on computer services (the so called “tech tax”), legislators passed an increase in the percentage of income tax that people who earn over $1M per year will have to pay. As of right now, that tax will sunset (end) in three years.

The bill that will ban all “video bingo” machines in Maryland by July 2009 passed and is expected to be signed by the Governor. Bills aimed at encouraging or protecting agriculture faired pretty well (with the exception of those with large price tags).

Every one of us has been affected this year by higher electricity rates and gasoline prices. Unfortunately, our political representatives have not found an answer to these problems. They have, however, managed to help people who are facing foreclosure because they cannot make their mortgage payments. Also, in the “unfortunate” column, the bill that would have automatically given homeowners their homeowners property tax credit did not pass. Therefore, all homeowners will have to apply for this credit. According to the state, a form is included in each tax assessment notice to use for this purpose.

Below is a wrap up of this session’s bills:

SB 94/HB 1018, Prince George’s County – Property Tax Credits – Agricultural Land Preservation Programs.
SB 94/HB 1018, as amended, was passed by the General Assembly. This law now authorizes (but does not require) the Prince George’s County government to grant property tax credits for land that is in the program.

SB 418/HB 731, Creation of State Debt – Lower Susquehanna Greenway Trail Development.
This bond bill passed and will provide a grant in the amount of $250,000 for construction of trails and amenities.

HB 840, Washington County – Deer Hunting on Private Property – Sundays,
passed and is expected to be signed into law by the Governor.

HB 938, Montgomery County – Deer Hunting on Private Lands – Effective Date,
passed and is expected to be signed into law by the Governor.

HB 976, Agricultural Preservation Program – Lot Releases.
This bill has been signed into law by the Governor and will allow people whose land is in agricultural preservation to build on a maximum two acre lot if they can prove that adjacent land owned by others is preventing them from using and enjoying their agricultural land.

HB 1482/SB 878, Harford County – Deer Hunting on Private Property- Sundays,
passed and will be signed by the Governor.

HB 1506, Task Force to Study Thoroughbred Racing at Rosecroft Raceway.
This bill passed. It will establish a task force to study the feasibility of holding Thoroughbred racing at Rosecroft which is a Standardbred track.